Medical emergencies can happen to your dog at any time.  Are you prepared? 

Your most important and vital tool in emergency situations is your CELL-PHONE.  Is your Vets phone number programmed into your phone?  As emergency back-up, also include 2 or 3 other nearby Veterinary hospitals as back-up.  Do it NOW.  (Go on…I’ll be here when you get back!)

Welcome back!  Now, you are halfway to being prepared for a medical veterinary emergency.  I’m not going to kid you and say that what follows is a complete plan to aid you if your dog is injured or takes ill suddenly.  But it is enough to keep you level-headed and thinking ahead, Before an emergency happens. 


“Don’t worry…this won’t hurt me a bit…”


Thoroughly assess situation before reacting.  REMAIN CALM, your dog will feed off your reaction.  Be FIRM, but Gentle.  Assess whether or not you will need to muzzle the dog. Then, begin to assess bu answering these questions:

Is the dog lethargic or hyperactive?

Is the dog breathing properly?  (Panting may be normal.)  Is the Airway clear?

Check for heartbeat.  (Tips of fingers under the chest wall and thumb opposing.  Attempt CPR  (See below instructions or seek specific training in Canine CPR)       ONLY  IF NECESSARY.  Truth be told, CPR in canines is not highly successful.  It is a last ditch effort.

Recognizing SHOCK. – Shock is a failure of circulation of blood.

     *Check the Capillary Refill time in the gums.

     * refill time after pressure is normally 1 to 2 seconds.

     * Push finger against upper gum line.

     * Count seconds until color of gum returns to normal.

     * What color is the mucus membrane?  Pale? Purple? Deep Purple?

     * CHECK BREATHING:  Rate of breathing…Depth of Breathing…Ease of Breathing.

     * Dogs Mental condition:  Anxious?   In Obvious pain?  Depressed or withdrawn, hiding?

     * Heart rate and Pulse STRENGTH. ( Strong? Weak? Thready?  Difficult to locate?)

     * Temperature extremes- Over heated?  Frozen?

     * Obvious EXTERNAL bleeding.  Where?  Flowing or Pulsing?  Dark and arterial, or bright and superficial?  Bubbles(Lung puncture)

     * Check for Abdominal pain, obstruction, fluid.   Is the stomach wall hard?  Is it pliable?  Palpate very carefully in examination.

    *  Disturbance of Circulation (SHOCK) can follow ANY serious injury.  Dog will have white to pale to grey Coloration in the gums.  Capillary refill time will be prolonged or absent.  A dazed or semi-conscious attitude in the dog will be apparent.  Weak, Rapid, or Thready pulse.  Shallow respirations.  Grunting may be present at end of In Breathing.  Head may be extended to facilitate breathing.  Breathing will be choked and difficult.  Weakness and or collapse may occur.

    *What is the dogs LEVEL of Consciousness?


 Arrange transport to Veterinary help immediately.

 Keep the dog as quiet as possible, avoiding panic.

 utilize something that will serve as a stretcher for transport

 Clear dogs mouth of foreign debris  mucus,  or vomitus.

 If possible and necessary, perform CPR or Artificial respiration.

 Unless the problem is heat related, cover with a blanket.

 No fluids should be administered orally at this time.  Choking is  a possibility.

 Keep HEAD at HEART level.


Leg wounds can bleed fiercely!  A makeshift muzzle may be needed. Demonstrate.

Rapid flush with Saline or clean water.

Apply firm, steady pressure directly over wound.

Heavy gauze is best, but any clean, soft material, can be used as pressure bandage.

 Before  applying permanent bandaging, lift pressure bandage to re-check blood flow.

 If possible flush wound with saline or clean, cool  water.

  If available, apply Celox or other coagulant.

  Re apply pressure bandage.

  Wrap stretch gauze around pressure bandage to secure.

Bandage may stay in place 1 to 2 hours.  Transport Dog as soon as possible to Veterinarian.

If the entire limb is NOT bandaged, circulation must be restored every 25 minutes. Repeat  

        above  procedures with clean materials.

If bleeding is deep and PUMPING, DIRECT  PRESSURE is best treatment.

       In The Event of a puncture wound that may have entered the lung or heart, check whether or not air is flowing freely thru the hole.  If NOT, Do Not Attempt to Remove the object.  If air IS flowing, pinch off the exit wound tightly and  transport ASAP.


Always suspect internal bleeding after any Blunt force trauma.  External indication may be masked for some time by your dog.  Look for these behaviors:

Anxiety or restlessness

Rapid, thread pulse

Pale Gums



Excessive Thirst  

Blood coming from any  body orifice.

 Soft tissues may become hard to the touch.


If Internal bleeding is suspected, you need to transport the dog ASAP.  The dog should be lying down, with rear legs slightly above front,

Make the dog as comfortable as possible.  If applicable, cover the dog lightly with blanket or towel.

Stay focused and calm, imparting your confidence to the dog.

Remember, the dog is probably shocky as well, treat as such.

Call the Vet and give a heads up that you are en route.

CPR and Artificial Respiration:                     

Cardio Pulmonary resuscitation can do great harm and should be a last resort.  Dog should show no sign or indication of heartbeat.

Lay dog on it’s Right side.

Check the dogs mouth and throat for obstruction.  Tongue may need to be retracted.

Best position for you is at the dogs back.

Without bending the elbows, place your left palm over heart region of the dog (SHOW) with right palm on top of left.  Press, do not slam, the ribcage into compression.

Compress for a count of ONE, release for a count of ONE.  Approximately 30 to 60 compressions per minute.

Every 10 compressions should be followed by ONE breath of Artificial respiration.  Close dogs muzzle and breath into nostrils slowly but with determination.  Look for lungs to inflate.

If another capable individual is close, perform ONE breath every TWO chest compressions.

10 minutes is the longest that you should attempt this.  Anything longer is futile.  And you will be near physical exhaustion anyway.

This should be a last resort.  CPR on canines has a depressingly low positive outcome.


    Most fractures are caused by accidents of varying types.  Preparation and use of protocols for shock and bleeding should coincide with treatment.  Stay alert for other symptoms that will take priority over broken bones, such as No Breathing or Heart stoppage.

   Most commonly broken bones in canines are femurs, pelvis, skull, jaw, and spine.  If a fracture has broken thru epidermal layer (skin) it becomes a Compound fracture, with great risk of infection.  Treat the wound for cleanliness as your priority, create as sterile an environment as possible

Take precaution regarding being bitten by the dog.  Apply a muzzle if available, or jury-rig one with shirt, towel, sock or belt.

Open wounds should be treated as soon as all symptoms have been triaged.

Splinting a fracture can relieve pain, shock, and further damage, but must be prepared for before you need this skill.  Improper splinting can cause more damage to the injury.  Simply put, you are NOT Re-setting the bone here by manipulating the bone. You are preventing a broken limb from swinging freely and causing more damage.

If the dog resists, let the limb alone, but do your best to keep the dog as still as possible.  Remain Calm!

Never move the limb, but splint it in the shape you find it. 

Found objects that can be used as splints on fractures of the legs are magazines, paperback books, boards, newspapers.

Splints may be tie off, but not to tightly with string, wire, neckties, strips of material etc.

Difficult to splint areas should be left alone, and the dog transported lying down on a stiff mode of transport.

Head injuries and Spinal cord involved injuries require special care.  Utilize your cellphone before attempting any of the following.


Such fractures can be subtle (hidden) or gross (bloody, with skull mishapening)    Contusions may be apparent with or without Loss of Consciousness.  Dog will be dazed.  Keep the dog calm and prone if possible.

  If the dog is unconscious, or was, then always suspect CONCUSSION.

Always Treat for SHOCK with above Protocols as priority before worrying about the fractures.

Be certain that the dog is breathing and CAN breath.  Check airway for obstruction.

Handle the dog with great care, and remain calm.  Feeling panic from you will excite and exacerbate the dogs injuries and mental condition. 

Control bleeding as described before.

Devise a suitable flat stretcher for transport.  Do NOT LIFT the dog onto the stretcher, but slide it Under the dog following grain of the dogs hair.  Take this procedure slowly!!!  Take this procedure slowly!!!  Be observant for the dogs indications of pain or discomfort.

Observe and record signs of alertness from beginning of treatment thru to arrival at hospital.  Observe level of consciousness, eye movement, breathing, pupil reactions, and breathing.  Info vital to attending Veterinarian.

Transport dog with HEAD Higher than rear end, so as to alleviate cranial pressure.

Make note of any seizure activity.

Duct tape, with cloth underlay can sometimes be utilized to prevent thrashing of the dog. 


Protocols for Spinal injuries are similar to Skull fractures in that EXTREME care must be taken into consideration.  As with every injury, use your Cellular Phone and contact the Veterinarian before attempting any procedure you are not comfortable with…Most important is to limit the dogs range of motion during transport.


Burns can occur from many sources including chemicals, (internal and external)  Automobile exhausts, and other parts, hot pavement tar, fires in fireplaces, grass or campfires.  It is vital that you be aware of you’re your dogs curious nature, and guide him from situations that can lead to burns of any sort.    

Before treatment, always prioritize the dogs symptoms into what is most vital.  Shock, Airway, Breathing always take precedent!

Any and all burns are best treated immediately with cool, running, clean water.  Submergence is acceptable if the temperature is not cold.

Do not attempt to administer any creams or ointments to the initial burn.

Do not burst any blisters that may form as a result of burn.


(Referring specifically to foreign objects lodged in the mouth or throat)

 Is the dog breathing?  Salivating?  Coughing?

Is an object visible and graspable?  If not, attempt to determine what may be lodged in the throat/larynx.  (Look around for bones, cloth, rope, etc.

Check the dogs tongue for proper position.

DO NOT Poke any visible obstruction, as forcing it further will complicate.

Lay dog on its side, and employ a helper to hold the dog in position.  If possible, have the obstruction in an outward and down position, allowing gravity to assist you in removal.  A pair of forceps or needle-nose pliers in you kit can be a great asset.  If manual removal is not possible:

Canine Heimlich Manuever: 

Approach the dog from the rear, and place your arms around the dog.  Your fists should be placed into the sternum gap located at the bottom of the rib-cage.  Compress the body with a single upward thrust.  If the initial thrust is unsuccessful, repeat 4 or 5 times in succession.  You are forcing air up the larynx, which will usually dislodge the object.

If the object dislodges by your actions, observe the dog for bleeding, continued retching, fainting.

Dog should then be transported for veterinary examination.

If your attempts do not stop the choking, be sure that the dog is breathing at least adequately, and transport immediately.  Remain Calm…

 Remember, your dog can also breathe thru his nose, but this is still an EMERGENCY situation.


Dogs will often not reveal that they are frostbitten!  You MUST be mindful of this in conditions that cause it.  Be especially aware that the tail, ear tips, foot-pads, and scrotum are especially vulnerable to frost-bite damage.

Frost-bitten skin will be pale white (dead looking) or blue in color.  If circulation returns, the skin will be deep red and swollen, perhaps badly.  Uncirculating will cause the skin to turn black and necrotic.

Treatment:  Apply warm not Hot water soaks to the affected area.  Using a towel is a best practice.  As the skin changes color, you may begin to return the dog to normal heat inside.  DO NOT RUB OR MASSAGE the affected area as damage can be done to the skin.  Follow up with a Veterinarian.

Be aware that as sensation returns, the affected area can be quite painful to the touch.  You may need to restrain the dog from biting or licking.


Dogs do not sweat, and therefore cannot tolerate HOT Atmospheric conditions.  PANTING is the dogs only means of naturally lowering their own core temperature, and when the ambient air temperature approaches their natural body temperature, (100 to 102.5 f. for adults, 97 to 99 for puppies) panting becomes an inefficient system.


A) Don’t leave a dog in a closed car even at lower temps of 50 degrees or more. 

B) Curtail strenuous exercise during warm weather.  

C) Play in water is a great alternative in warm weather 

D) Always provide shade and fresh water to your dog whether inside or out.

INDICATIONS OF HEAT STROKE-  Heavy Panting or Labored breathing.   Dogs mouth, tongue, and gums will be BRIGHT RED.  Dogs saliva will become thick and viscous, and vomiting will occur.  Rectal temp will climb to 104 to 110.   Shock may set in, (See SHOCK protocols)  Seizures, collapse, and sudden expiring can occur.


Emergency COOLING (a gradual, not SUDDEN process) is necessitated.  Move dog into an air-conditioned room first.  Monitor temperature rectally if possible.  Mild condition will quickly resolve itself.  If rectal temperature exceeds 103, dog should be cooled with cool water from a hose, bucket, or other device.  COOL Water, not COLD!  Too rapid a change can induce shock.  It may also work to place a wet dog in front of a Fan.  After a Heatstroke event, a Veterinary check-up for after effects is highly recommended.  Cardiac Arrythmia, kidney failure, and seizures are possible affects.


TreatmentFlush as much water from dogs lungs as possible.  Turn dog with mouth and nose down and allow gravity to help.

Check for pulse and breathing.  If absent, place dog on its RIGHT side and begin Mouth-to-Nose breathing.

Dogs from cold water can be revived! Don’t give up!


May occur when a dog bites or chews and electrical cord.

Do not allow dog to urinate on Holiday lights, yard lights, or path marker lights!

A Shocked dog may be found unconscious near an electrical source.

Heartbeat will be irregular heartbeat, followed by Cardiac Arrest.

Shock also may damage the capillaries of the Lungs.  Fluid can build up, causing pulmonary edema.

Remember that if your dog has bitten thru a wire, he may be UNABLE to let the wire go.  You will need to help him immediately!!


NEVER  touch a dog or person that you suspect may still be in contact with the electrical source!!!  Examine the scene thoroughly but quickly, assessing positively that the source is gone or deactivated.  If the source is still ALIVE, either find a way to  turn off the power first, or remove the contact with your dog by using a NON_CONDUCTIVE material…(Rope, Towel, Leather Leash, hose material)

CPR Protocols shall now be followed



Foreign body in the eye requires an assistant to steady the dog. 

A muzzle or towel may be needed to prevent biting.

Fresh water or saline is needed.  A small squirt bottle will work best for flushing.

Demonstrate opening the eye for flushing with water.


In an emergency situation, only flushing the eye should be attempted.  Transport the dog NOW!


Caused by  METHYLXANTHINES which are toxic to dogs but not people.

Large dogs can be effected by as little as 16 ounces of BAKING chocolates.  Brownies or chocolate cake are reason for alarm.

Symptoms include Excitability, uncontrolled urination, diarrhea, rapid breathing, weakness, seizures, or coma.

If dog has not yet vomited, induce vomiting:

 Use HYDROGEN PEROXIDE One (1) TEASPOON per 10 pounds of body weight.  Repeat at 15 minute intervals until dog vomits.  DO NOT USE SYRUP OF IPECAC!!!!

AFTER Dog has vomited, compressed activated charcoal  can be administered.  These are 5 gram tablets, one (1) tablet per 10 pounds of weight.  This will arrest further poison absorption.  YOU SHOULD HAVE THESE IN YOUR KIT!


   Put this number in your phone:  (800) 548-2423   or   (900) 680-0000   These are the National Animal Poison Control Center.  Again, also have your Vets number close and available by putting it in your cell phone!!!

First priority is finding out what the dog has ingested.  Collect a sample if substance is unknown, or known, and bring it with you!!

Be PREPARED to induce vomiting if you are instructed to do so by your phone call.

If the container of the substance says “Do Not Induce Vomiting”,    DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING.

General rule of thumb: Do Not Induce Vomiting if:

Dog has already vomited

Dog is unconscious ,suffering seizures, or having breathing difficulty


If the dog has swallowed a SHARP or POINTED object.

I wholeheartedly beg you to research what is considered POISON to your dog, including plants, foods, and chemicals.  Poisoning is a top reason that dogs die en route to veterinary care.  Forewarned is forearmed.

  This is far from a complete list of emergency procedures.  They WILL get you and your dog to the Veterinarian, where more complete care can be administered.  Above all, this small preparation will keep YOU calm and able to respond to your dogs distress.  For further advice on building a first-aid kit, see my earlier blog entry here:

  Thanks for reading, and stay CALM!!!

  1. Kim Atwell says:

    Thanks Robert! This is great info! We use 3 different vets and have them all in my phone….ready to go.

  2. Melissa Kelley says:

    Thanks Robert, for addressing this. Most people are not familiar with what to do in case of an emergency.Lord knows, that in all the years I have had animals , there have been plenty of emergencies throughout…..It is always something that one should be prepared for. If you have animals … some point it WILL happen. It is nice to go over things from time to time, to refresh your memory,or even update your approach to some technique…….Thank you so much from this segment….(and yes, my vets’ numbers are on speed dial…lol….Im 2 min from ER….and I am on a first name basis with my surgeons…LOL……How sad is that? :))

  3. Denine Phillips says:

    Very timely, Robert! I was up late last night, thinking Cooper had bloated. I scrambled to find the number of the closest emergency vet. I’m going to store that number in my cell right now, Thank you!!! P.S. Cooper’s pacing, restlessness and overall strange behavior (i.e., eating pine needles under the forsythia hedge) was something I’ve never seen; I suspect it was just a case of indigestion.